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'We never walked away,' fellow soldier tells suicide inquiry
« on: April 06, 2012, 03:08:18 PM »
'We never walked away,' fellow soldier tells suicide inquiry

By Chris Cobb, Postmedia NewsApril 6, 2012

Maj. Mark Lubiniecki testified at the Military Police Complaints Commission public hearing into the military police investigations conducted following the death of Corporal Stuart Langridge in 2008.

OTTAWA — In often emotional testimony, an Edmonton army officer told a federal inquiry Thursday that a young soldier who was "a strong performer" in Afghanistan descended into state of depression and drug addiction that his regimental colleagues were ill-equipped to handle.

"I'm trained to lead soldiers into combat," said Maj. Mark Lubiniecki. "I had never dealt with a suicide in the past. My soldiers aren't trained to deal with substance abuse and suicide. We relied on medical staff."

And civilian medical staff in Edmonton had been frustratingly unhelpful in handing over information about Cpl. Stuart Langridge's condition, he said.

Lubiniecki, an Afghan veteran based at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton in March 2008 when Langridge hanged himself, said allegations that Langridge's officers and fellow soldiers didn't do enough to save him were "upsetting."

"We're not perfect," said Lubiniecki, echoing evidence heard from others from CFB Edmonton. "But at the end of the day his health and welfare was in mind. We never walked away from Cpl. Langridge."

Lubiniecki was testifying at the Military Police Complaints Commission called to probe complaints lodged by Langridge's parents who claim that three separate investigations by MPs were biased and designed to protect the military.

After Langridge had spent 30 days under psychiatric care at Edmonton's Alberta Hospital in early 2008, he was ordered back to CFB Edmonton for treatment because, says the military, he was leaving the hospital to buy drugs from his dealer.

According to Lubiniecki, Langridge spent two week's pay on drugs while he was supposed to be in treatment and while bills piled up at the condominium he shared with his girlfriend.

Lubiniecki said he first heard about Langridge's death when he returned to base after attending the funeral of a soldier killed in Afghanistan.

He said he was surprised that Langridge had asked that he give the eulogy at his funeral.

The dead soldier's parents were originally designated next-of-kin but that decision was reversed after a meeting of officers. His girlfriend then became the designate — a role that entitled her to organize the funeral and receive benefits believed to be in excess of $100,000.

"There appears to have been a great deal of inconsistent communication regarding next of kin," commission lawyer Mark Freiman told him.

It still remains unclear why officers made that decision or why they withheld for 14 months a suicide note addressed to Langridge's parents.

Lubiniecki said the Stuart Langridge he knew in Afghanistan was "happy, gregarious and smiling" but when he arrived back in Edmonton, he underwent a noticeable change in personality.

In between hospital visits, he went into rehab but left early, telling Lubiniecki he was only a recreational drug user and the others at the rehab centre were serious addicts.

He apologized to Lubiniecki for his behaviour and said he wanted to become a good soldier again.

Lubiniecki said he tried to help Langridge get back on track but failed.

His voice breaking with emotion, the army officer said he had been raised to help people.

"Sometimes people just need someone to believe in them."

Delivering the eulogy had been difficult, he said, because he wanted to strike a balance between the two Stuarts he had known and not "pull the wool over the eyes of soldiers who would be in the chapel."

"I spoke about how Stuart had been dealing with some demons and then tried to deal with his time as a soldier. There was a slide show. It seemed to be a good celebration of Stuart's life."

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